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LightHouse News

LightHouse will take over as distributor of Sendero Map and GPS products

The LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco is proud to announce its takeover as the manager and distributor of Sendero Group-manufactured GPS products. The LightHouse will run Sendero Maps and Sendero’s GPS product, which will continue to function normally.

Sendero’s PC Maps and GPS serve the blind and visually impaired community by providing detailed information to explore rural roads or city streets, intersection-by-intersection. The software allows users to record personal points of interest, hear their direction of travel, track distance travelled and collaborate with teachers, friends or family using integrated visual maps.

Sendero has been the frontrunner in accessible GPS technology since Founder Mike May and Chief Technology Officer Charles LaPierre launched the first accessible digital GPS map in 1995 at Arkenstone, their former travel technology company. That product turned into the forward-thinking, personal computer-based Sendero Maps and GPS, which the San Francisco LightHouse will now manage, in conjunction with its Tactile Maps Automated Production (TMAP).

This partnership will yield exciting new technological developments and retain Sendero’s existing products and functionalities. The Sendero mobile apps are slated for new features, and the Sendero Maps software will remain the same. LightHouse will also host the legacy BrailleNote and Braille Sense software, which were formerly available through Sendero.

To complement the PC-based products hosted by LightHouse, Sendero also announced that it is turning over its mobile navigation products to the subscription-based sighted assistance company Aira, who is acquiring Sendero’s iOS products for integration in their service.

Sendero’s GPS products will complement TMAP’s progressive approach to on-demand maps with their easy-to-use technology. There is no better way to learn a neighborhood than to pair the detail of digital maps with the spatial, geographic overview of a tactile map.

Sendero CTO, Charles LaPierre says, “I am thrilled that Sendero Maps and GPS products will continue under the stewardship of Aira and the LightHouse. In 1993, when I developed the first accessible GPS backpack prototype weighing 10 pounds, I said ‘In 10 years it will be the size of a Sony Walkman (TM), which will fit in your hand’. I am honored that my university project 25 years ago evolved into the ‘Swiss Army knife of life’ smartphone version of today.”

Under LightHouse superintendence in San Francisco, we hope to see Sendero products and services expand to serve more blind and visually impaired people worldwide — particularly with the highly anticipated launch of our online Adaptations Store later this year.

From yacht-rock to pop-ballads: Our first Audio Academy broke new ground

On Sunday afternoon, the halls of LightHouse reverberated with the deep, breezy sounds of yacht rock. “Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be,” crooned DJ Dan’s tune “Sailing” by Christopher Cross. A San Francisco State student with an interest in all things aquatic, Dan’s final performance on Sunday transported the audience to a tranquil expanse and back again, reflecting Dan’s personality with quirky, upbeat folk and country tunes perfectly suited for the sailing life.

Each student entered the weekend with no knowledge of DJing, and left equipped with sufficient knowledge to assemble a twenty minute set. Our blind instructors Byron Harden and Clarence Griffin from Chicago-based I See Music introduced students to the software Deejay Pro and taught them the basics of a fully accessible and non-visual DJ method. Their program, designed by blind people for blind people, is the only in the nation that offers a comprehensive audio education curriculum for blind and low vision learners.

The workshop participants performed sets that were each as unique in tone and style as the students themselves. We heard an uplifting, pop-centric set by Maycie, a thumping, rhythmic set from Jenna and hip hop and R&B tunes from Juan. Traveling from all around Northern California, the students came from as far as Sonora and Sacramento, taking full advantage of the LightHouse’s cozy residential facilities for the 3-day workshop.

Audio Academy student Maycie sits grinning in front of her DJ equipment in the LightHouse board room.
Audio Academy student Maycie sits grinning in front of her DJ equipment in the LightHouse board room.

Maycie, 20, was thrilled to find out about Audio Academy because it marked a departure from many other inaccessible or antiquated audio workshops. She had researched a variety of music schools, but none could provide appropriate accommodations. As a vocalist, producer of her own songs and aspiring DJ, Maycie sought an educational avenue for audio skills.

“Blind people kind of get stereotyped a lot as musicians,” she says. “Not every blind person is musical, but for those of us that are, there need to be more opportunities.”

She says that the workshop provided a comprehensive basic understanding of the DJ software, DJ methodology and tools, adding that the workshop solidified her interest in DJing professionally.

“It was a pretty amazing feeling, to be honest: I had this picture in my head of actually performing a DJ set, and no one would have to help me — I could do it fully by myself.”

Audio Academy student Jenna smiles, seated, with one hand on her laptop and the other on her DJ equipment.
Audio Academy student Jenna smiles, seated, with one hand on her laptop and the other on her DJ equipment.

Jenna, 21, says that although she wasn’t certain what to expect for the weekend, she was glad to have participated and introduced herself to a set of skills to enhance both her recreational and vocational interests.

“This has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for me with my pursuit of a career in music and I’m excited to attend more Audio Academy Workshops in the future,” she says.

Juan, 23, says that the workshop was fulfilling as an opportunity to learn new skills in a new environment, and add another skill to his musical toolbox of piano, guitar and percussion instruments. Over the weekend, he learned to mix and edit a set of songs using DJay Pro in conjunction with accessible technology, including VoiceOver.

Audio Academy students, instructor Clarence and LightHouse Board member Josh Miele assemble in the Board Room around DJ equipment to listen to music.
Audio Academy students, instructor Clarence and LightHouse Board member Josh Miele assemble in the Board Room around DJ equipment to listen to music.

“I like to listen to music, so DJing seems like a possibility, and I felt like the teachers were putting good emphasis in the stuff they taught us,” he says. “I want to buy the DJ equipment and start practicing at home. And, I want to actually do what the instructors do. They get gigs and stuff like that, and I want to actually DJ professionally.”

Byron and Clarence collectively have a wealth of knowledge and experience in audio production, DJing and music. Byron created I See Music to foster independence, equality and opportunity through their instruction and example of professional success.

Daniel, 22, says that having blind instructors was a defining part of the workshop. He was pleased that their knowledge of both the DJ and accessibility softwares rendered the workflow relatively seamless.

At left, Blind DJ Ryan Dour performs a set using an iPad and DJ equipment, while Audio Academy student Daniel listens with delight at right.
At left, Blind DJ Ryan Dour performs a set using an iPad and DJ equipment, while Audio Academy student Daniel listens with delight at right.

“I felt the program was really good. I really learned a lot, and I think that it was a good opportunity for people,” he says. “You could get hands-on experience there with somebody that really knew the software. I might use the knowledge as a radio DJ, or might just do some DJing on the side just for fun.”

How to Carve a Pumpkin Non-Visually

Happy Halloween! We’re bringing you tips on how to carve a pumpkin non-visually written by our Independent Living Skills Specialist, Bobbi Pompey. We’re also featuring photos from our pumpkin carving workshop earlier this month.

A young girl looks down at a pumpkin, secures the pumpkin with one hand and cuts into the pumpkin with her other hand.
A young girl looks down at a pumpkin, secures the pumpkin with one hand and cuts into the pumpkin with her other hand.
  • Begin with the End in Mind!: Have a plan for how you want your finished pumpkin to look. Will it be happy? Scary? Round? Misshapen? All of this will affect which pumpkin you purchase, and how it will be designed.
  • Mise en Place: This French cooking phrase refers to having everything you need out and organized before beginning to work. For this project, you will need a serrated knife, a spoon/scoop, one or two bowls, tape/glue, materials to layout a template and any finishing touches.
  • Stay Safe: When carving the pumpkin, please remember to practice your knife safety skills! This includes using a sharp knife, cutting with the blade away from you, and putting the knife in a designated location when not in use.
  • What works for you?: The key to creating your design is making a tactual template that you can then cut around. This template can be made from a variety of of materials, you must decide what is best for you. You may want to use; masking/painting tape, pipe cleaners, wiki sticks, yarn, or paper folded in the desired shapes.
A hand sits atop a pumpkin with blue masking tape around the top circumference.
A hand sits atop a pumpkin with blue masking tape around the top circumference.

Let’s dive in, and carve that pumpkin! Steps are below:

  1. Design your pumpkin. Tape or glue down your design materials in order to create a template for your design.
  2. Cut a circle around the stem in order to form a lid. Cut with the knife at an angle, away from the stem, so that the lid will rest on the top instead of fall down into the pumpkin.
  3. Scoop out the inside. Use your hands and a spoon or scoop in order to scrape out the guts and seeds of the pumpkin. Separate the seeds if desired for later use.
  4. To toast the seeds: toss them in oil or melted butter, add salt and seasonings if desired. Spread them evenly on a baking sheet, and cook in a 300 degree preheated oven for approximately 45 minutes.
  5. Decorate and display! You can place a battery operated tea light candle in your pumpkin to add light to your design, cover the openings with colored tissue paper to give your pumpkin a festive glow, or surround it with pumpkins of other sizes, a candy bowl, pine combs or greenery as finishing touches.
Gail “Sunshine” in front of her cabin at EHC, with a new cane and carved pumpkin for her grandson.
Gail “Sunshine” in front of her cabin at EHC, with a new cane and carved pumpkin for her grandson.
  • Recognize Your Skills: Once your pumpkin is complete, take a moment to recognize all the skills you used in order to make it happen and think about how you can transfer them to other areas of your life. It is likely that you used; knife skills, knife safety, tactual awareness, shopping skills (traveling to the store, money management, personal grooming, clothing management, etc.), organization, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and more! 
an array of carved pumpkins glow in the dark.
An array of carved pumpkins glow in the dark.

If you would like instruction in carving a pumpkin or any other independent living skills, feel free to contact Bobbi Pompey, ILS Specialist, at or (415) 694-7613. Independent Living Skills include: cooking, labeling/organization, clothing management, personal grooming, make-up application, cleaning, accessing print, low vision devices and other everyday skills.

Baking Blind: How Penny Melville-Brown changed perceptions about disability by cooking across six continents

Belgian-born chef and entrepreneur Noam Kostucki summed up 2017 Holman Prizewinner Penny Melville-Brown like this: “She’s bonkers. She’s completely mad.” This from a man running a restaurant in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle — but he meant it as a compliment. And for those who know Penny, it’s pretty much spot on.

Penny has big ideas and the gumption to carry them out — there’s no stopping her once she puts her mind to something. The woman has fortitude, military-learned logistics skills and an uncanny ability to connect with everyone she meets and put them immediately at ease.

From the onset, Penny’s Holman prizewinning project looked to be the one with least risk involved (compared to tending killer bees and solo-kayaking a highly trafficked shipping channel). Her plan was to leave her home in the green, port-side town of Fareham, UK and travel to six continents over the course of one year. Along the way she stopped in Costa Rica, Malawi, Australia, China and the United States, and met with chefs, other blind people and community leaders all over the world. She traveled with her nephew Toby Melville-Brown who documented her whirlwind world tour in a video blog series, Baking Blind.

“Some people were tentative and quite cagey before I showed up,” she says. “As soon as we were cooking together, they forgot I was blind. Then it was just two people sharing an experience together. Usually they had something simple in mind that they wanted to cook and I bullied them into doing something much more interesting.”

The risks of cooking seemed minimal to an experienced baker like herself— a burned wrist here, a nicked finger there — and yet somehow Penny’s project was the one with the most sturm und drang. Penny’s tour was met with much more intrigue than she had planned— coming face-to-face with Tropical Storm Nate in Costa Rica, a visa-related marooning in China, an air-sea rescue in Australia, to name a few. But Penny took it all in stride, and embraced the uncertainties as an unavoidable and rich part of her journey.

“As I crisscrossed continents and connected with people in vastly different cultures, I became even more convinced that something like this needed to be done,” she says. “There is very little media coverage of a blind person interacting with the rest of the world as an equal —  an ordinary person, who is really keen on something, operating as an equal with others around the world.”

Penny has a special connection with the namesake of the Holman Prize, James Holman, a 19th Century world traveler known as the first blind man to circumnavigate the globe. Both became blind while serving in the British Royal Navy (albeit nearly 200 years apart). Penny served for 22 years in the Women’s Royal Naval Service and Royal Navy, reaching the rank of commander. She was also the first woman to hold the position of naval barrister. After being medically discharged from the Royal Navy in 1999, she created her business Disability Dynamics to help other people with disabilities find employment.

“The majority of disabled people acquire their disabilities during their working lives, as they’re growing up or while they’re working,” she says. “If you’ve build yourself the strength of character motivation, optimism, determination, those skills will take you through life’s challenges of any sort, like acquiring a disability or getting a job.”

So much of Penny’s work focuses not only on changing the minds of people with disabilities themselves, but changing widespread public perceptions about disability. And when asked to identify the highlights of her Baking Blind tour, it’s the small human connections that Penny pinpoints — the ones that ripple out into the collective psyche to help evolve peoples’ understanding of what it means to be disabled.

Her favorite moment was cooking with two 20-year-old women in China, who didn’t even know how to hold a knife — and how quickly they formed a bond and began helping each other, growing more confident with each passing moment. Or wending her way through the bush and scrubland of Kiama, Australia with an Aboriginal chef as a guide to show them which plants were edible. Or even cooking deep in the jungle of Costa Rica with Chef Noam during a tropical storm and being forced to improvise due to the ironic lack of running water.

But the end of Penny’s journey around the world didn’t turn out quite as she had expected. During a visit to France just before Christmas to explore new cooking opportunities, Penny almost died in a serious car accident where she fractured several vertebrae in her neck and broke multiple ribs and her sternum. She spent two months in intensive care and was put into an induced coma for five weeks.

Penny says, “The breathing tubes stopped me talking so communicating with the French medical team was a challenge for all of us and even more complicated by my blindness. When you’re blind and in intensive care, and trying to communicate in a foreign language, it’s not easy. I had a whole vocabulary of sound effects that I used to communicate with the nurses.”

It was an incredibly trying time for Penny and her loved ones, but Penny fought hard — facing her rehabilitation head-on, and recovering much faster than her doctors anticipated.

“When you’ve already overcome significant life challenges, you’re an old hand at it,” she says.

And though Penny still has some recovery to do, she’s hard at work producing Baking Blind videos that she and Toby shot while traveling all over the world for the Holman Prize. She’s also working on a cookbook using recipes and ideas from her world travels.

The strange lesson in all of Penny’s adventures is that the most serious mishap occurred not while she was stuck in muddy, pockmarked roads during a downpour in Costa Rica, or eating unfamiliar foods in the villages in Malawi — but while she was driving in a taxi in a major European metropolis. It goes to show that risk is unavoidable, and Penny would tell you there’s no use holding back from the things you want to seek out in the world.

“Life is all about taking risks,” says Penny. “And we survive to tell the tale.”

In little more than a month, Penny will again return to San Francisco to regale attendees at the LightHouse Gala about her accomplishments and discoveries during her year-long adventure funded by the Lighthouse’s Holman Prize.

About the Holman Prize

In 2017, San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind launched the Holman Prize to support the emerging adventurousness and can-do spirit of blind and low vision people worldwide. This endeavor celebrates people who want to shape their own future instead of having it laid out for them. In early July, we announced the 2018 Holman Prizewinners — congratulations to Stacy CervenkaConchita Hernández and Red Szell. Ojok and his fellow 2017 prizewinners will visit San Francisco in November 2017 to speak at the LightHouse Gala.

“We are thrilled to be able to continue the Holman Prize for a second year,” says LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin. “These three new prizewinners represent a wide range of ambitions and life experience: from tackling social obstacles to huge tests of physical and mental fortitude, they reflect the diversity and capability of blind people everywhere.”

Created specifically for legally blind individuals with a penchant for exploration of all types, the Holman Prize provides financial backing – up to $25,000 – for three individuals to explore the world and push their limits. Learn more at

Behind the Map: Starting over in a new city

In January, LightHouse started offering TMAP — on-demand tactile street maps — for order at our Adaptations Store (1-888-400-8933). We have been hearing some amazing stories about how our maps are being used, so we wanted to share them with our mapping community.

One month ago, Lia Jacobsen sat on a plane, nervous. She was moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan after living in Washington D.C. for 10 years. The prospect of learning a new city after all that time was, admittedly, a bit daunting.

On the tray table in front of her lay two TMAPs: one detailing the area around her new home in Ann Arbor, and another of the streets around the University of Michigan School of Social Work, where she was beginning a masters degree. Leah traced her hands along the raised lines of the map, determined to memorize the criss-crossing, partial grid system of her new town. She reviewed the braille street names using each map key, learning the quarter-mile radius map first, then working her way out to the more dense and complex 1.5-miles radius map.

The flight attendant paused at Lia’s row, and politely asked: “Excuse me, ma’am, would you like me to turn your light on?” The question struck Lia as a bit absurd. Why would a person need light to read a raised-line tactile map? She tried to be polite but some snark crept into her voice as she expressed her confusion. It wasn’t until this moment that she discovered that the maps were more than just embossed paper: the streets were printed in ink, as well.

A TMAP of the University of Michigan.
Image: A TMAP of the University of Michigan.

The humor of the situation helped dispel some of her nerves, and since arriving in Ann Arbor and completing several weeks of classes, Lia pretty much knows the lay of the land.  

“My TMAPs were hugely helpful because when I landed I already felt like I knew where I was,” she says. “It automatically made me feel much more comfortable because I knew what I was passing.”

On her first day on campus she caught a group of lost undergrads off-guard when she interjected and gave them directions to their building.  

“It’s about being more equal and having the freedom not to rely on other people,” she says. “I tend to explore no matter what, but it gives me a foundation and a starting point so I don’t feel totally lost. Feeling lost makes you just want to go home.”

Lia wishes she had had access to TMAP throughout her many years working on the Obama campaign, traveling far and wide as a member of the Peace Corps, traveling alone in Colombia, or as a kid growing up in Florida.  

“I never had tactile maps growing up,” she says. “My first time having a sort of tactile map, my O&M teacher took a piece of felt and put some velcro beads on it and made a makeshift map.”

She expects to use TMAPs much more as she pursues her masters in social work and hopefully heads back to D.C. to become a victim advocate for the FBI.

“I definitely plan on purchasing more TMAPs whenever I move next time and have been spreading the word about how much I love the TMAPs to all of my friends who are blind,” she says. “The task of learning a new community after being in the same place for a decade was daunting, and the maps I purchased were enormously helpful in my feeling oriented from day one.”

Get your TMAP today

To order a map, call our product specialists at 1-888-400-8933 and specify the street address of the map you’re interested in receiving. Within two business days we’ll ship you your map, or make it available for pick up at the Adaptations Store (1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, CA).

What’s in the package?

  • You will receive 3 map versions printed at simple, moderate and dense map scale ratios
  • A tactile map key
  • An introductory page
  • All materials are printed on 11” X 11.5” sheets of embossed paper and include ink / large print labels in addition to braille

Learn more about the MAD Lab where these maps are produced.

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Focus on your health this fall: participate in the National Fitness Challenge

The San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind & Visually Impaired is proud to be one of three California partners with the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and the Anthem Foundation for the National Fitness Challenge in 2018.

The goal of the National Fitness Challenge is to raise the physical activity levels of each participant to the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes 10,000 steps and 30 active minutes per day.

The campaign provides participants with Fitbits to track their steps and fitness activity between October and May.

In addition to helping participants find creative ways to increase their daily steps by matching them with fitness partners and offering discounted gym memberships, the LightHouse supports participants throughout the course of the campaign with a wide variety of fitness and wellness programming and services.

Join us in the coming months for a variety of activities, from hiking to yoga and beyond! To foster overall wellbeing, we also have non-fitness oriented programs in lifestyle skills like cooking and technology.

At the LightHouse, you can:

Blindness is not the barrier many think it is to achieving your fitness goals and enjoying greater well-being — and the LightHouse is here to help get into the rhythm.  It’s not too late to join the NFC if you already have a Fitbit — we welcome new participants to join throughout the campaign.

For more information on the National Fitness Challenge, For more information, contact Amber Sherrard at

Three ways to support blind people everywhere on White Cane Day

The worldwide event is October 15. Here’s what you can do to get involved.

Have a Story to Tell? Hashtag #MyWhiteCane

Do you remember the first time you held a white cane? How much do you really know about the white cane’s history and purpose? Did you know that the white cane is not a crude implement, a compromise or a scarllett letter – but a highly effective tool of empowerment?

Also known as White Cane Safety Day and declared Blind Americans Equality Day by President Barack Obama in 2011, October 15 is the day when, around the world, blind people and their allies take time out to celebrate blind achievement and one of the best pieces of technology that we know: this is what #WhiteCaneDay is all about. First recognized by the U.S. Congress in 1964, White Cane Day is part of a greater international push now known as Meet The Blind Month, White Cane Day is, for blind people or those with low vision, a time to shine.

Five things you might not know about the white cane:

  1. From toddlers to NBA players, canes come in all sizes, some as long as 6 feet tall.
  2. Some people tap their canes for the audio feedback, while others keep continuous contact with the ground. It’s a personal choice.
  3. Canes can have dozens of different tips: plastic, metal, round, flat, soft, hard and rolling – all serve different purposes and are appropriate in different environments.
  4. Some canes fold up, some telescope in, and some are rigid and do not shrink down at all – it’s also a personal choice.
  5. It is actually illegal for people who aren’t blind or visually impaired to walk in public with a white cane – so we never have to worry about impersonators!

If you are a cane user or an ally, please share this article in the lead up to October 15 to educate the world about how important the cane is to our confidence and indepdence.

Celebrate with LightHouse’s Safe Streets Ambassadors

The LightHouse Training Team, Safe Streets Ambassadors and community continue our quest to educate drivers and the general public into 2019 regarding the respect of blind and low vision travelers using their white cane.

“My Cane is My Right of Way” is our message, and the message is on our t-shirts. If you are able to join us for the hour, you will receive our “My cane is My Right of Way” for RVSPing and attending.  The morning of the 15th will begin at 10:00 am on the 10th floor with coffee and bagels (you will receive your t-shirt the day of the event) and head out to Market Street (in front of the LightHouse) where our education hits the streets.

When: October 15, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Where: in front of 1155 Market Street (meet at LightHouse HQ)

Who: Cane users and anyone who wants to help (we’ll be flyering!)

RSVP: Email Briana Kusuma at

Happy #WhiteCaneDay! And as a promotion, we are offering 15% off on canes and cane accessories for the whole month of October at Adaptations.

Better and Stronger: EHC on the 1st Anniversary of the Napa Wildfires

One year later, Enchanted Hills Camp is hosting programs for more blind campers than ever before.

“Hey!” Ellie exclaims with all the gusto of a self-proclaimed theater kid. “We can do stuff when we’re blind,” she reminds us bluntly, punctuating it with a knowing chuckle.

2018 was Ellie’s third year at camp, and her first teen session, and you can tell it’s been going well. Obsessed with improv, acting and performing – camp is not only a place where she can have fun and perform, but also a place where she can get over the normal grind of feeling like the “weird kid” in school. Talking to her on the fountain lawn this summer, you might never know that this summer camp almost didn’t happen.

One year ago today, the staff of Enchanted Hills Camp grabbed whatever they could hold in their arms and narrowly escaped as wildfire advanced across Mt. Veeder and overtook our 311 forested acres in Napa. If you had asked anyone that night if we would see teens tromping through camp this summer, their answer would have been bleak.

As our evacuated staff waited for news, the hard truths of one of California’s greatest natural disasters emerged. Our staff house had incinerated. The Redwood Grove Theater stage melted into a gnarl of smoldering debris. Worst of all, our rustic but historic lower camp cabins, the summer homes of up to 120 blind and visually impaired children and families for almost seven decades, were destroyed. There was talk of burned wildlife and downed power lines; there was no talk of summer camp.

Winter began and cleanup efforts started in earnest — the devoted staff of Enchanted Hills refused to accept defeat. Slowly, and with great determination, the crew returned one by one to a smokey, smoldering camp and began to rebuild. More than 600 burned trees were felled and carted away, clean water and power was returned, and as spring approached and rains continued to wash the acreage clean, the smell of smoke began to fade.

Today, the parts of camp that still stand are more beautiful and welcoming than ever. We hosted our first rental group since the fires – Justin Siena High School – and will soon reopen bookings for rentals to the general public. Flower gardens, carefully tended by staff and volunteers, have sprung up around the property. A new tile mosaic encircles the fountain on the lawn. Fresh paint, new windows and comfortable new beds promise a better night’s sleep in the lakeside cabins. This weekend, one hundred volunteers joined us for a day of painting, cleaning and clearing debris to ensure that whoever visits camp will find it better and stronger than ever.

Two bungalows sit illuminated next to each other in the evening woods.
Two bungalows sit illuminated next to each other in the evening woods.

The true gratitude comes from campers like Ellie who can explain why having a camp for people who are blind or have low vision is so important. “We build a lot of trust here,” she says, tearing up a bit. “It really does empower you.”

“I’ve definitely matured and realized that I can do anything – that my vision shouldn’t limit what I do. From a young age my parents have told me that, but I’ve never really believed them 100%. People here, we’re all different. We’re all just human beings and we all just want to feel love and feel appreciated for who we are, rather than what we look like or if we use a cane.”


When asked about the 2018 summer at Enchanted Hills, Camp Director Tony Fletcher sums it up in two words: “Extremely successful.” A 29-year veteran of LightHouse, Tony led the EHC team through good spirits, optimism and his signature no-panic attitude towards an inspired comeback that not only resulted in a full schedule of 2018 summer camp sessions – but the highest-attended teen session in our history – with as many as 70 blind and low vision teenagers basking in the glories of summer this July.

“We had outstanding staff and volunteer support,” says Tony, attributing camp’s rapid comeback to a dedicated community effort. “The campers celebrated the rebirth of their beloved camp. It was just a really positive experience all around, for all of us. The reward was the happiness of our campers. Pure and simple.”


Tony is careful to remind us: “We’re not done.”

In total, the heroic efforts of our staff and volunteers have preserved about half of camp’s original capacity to house groups. Now, we need to build back our destroyed facilities and return camp’s capacity to 120 people for peak sessions and community events, as well as the trails, bridges and infrastructure which makes their visits enjoyable.

Over the next year, Enchanted Hills Camp has some high priorities: We need to rebuild the storage barn, construct the shade structure and pool house area, add more outdoor showers, and most importantly, select our architect and present a master plan for the total redesign of our lower camp area. This is a process that will involve architects, the LightHouse board of directors, and of course, you. Community feedback will be an integral part of helping to shape the future of Enchanted Hills Camp.

Whether they’ve been coming to camp for three years or 63 years, there are hundreds of people like Ellie who will return, year after year, thanks to your generosity and support.


Warm regards,

Bryan Bashin

CEO, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

p.s. Rebuilding Enchanted Hills camp will be an expensive undertaking, as current law mandates that the rebuilt cabins and gathering rooms be far more strongly built and fire-resistant than their predecessors. The LightHouse is grateful to the many camp lovers who have already shown their generosity; if you’re thinking about where your own giving can make a difference for the next century, camp is something you can depend upon.

Aspiring DJs, producers and engineers: Jumpstart your career at the new LightHouse Audio Academy Workshops

LightHouse’s new immersive program launches in fall 2018 to educate blind and low vision students for careers in music, radio, recording and more.

October 15 preview: Meet other aspiring blind DJ’s and get a performance from working DJ Ryan Dour at a free Audio Academy DJ Demo Night!

This fall LightHouse is pleased to announce our new Audio Academy, an ongoing series of immersive courses to teach employable skills in the field of audio engineering and production. For our first course, we are partnering with the Illinois-based, blind-run I See Music, the only school in the nation that offers a comprehensive audio education curriculum for blind and low vision learners.

“Intro to DJing” will be a 3-day intensive workshop, which will host a small group of students in our dorm-style residences over two nights for an immersive, high-value learning experience. The course will introduce students to the software Deejay Pro and teach students the basics of a fully accessible and non-visual DJ method. See full course details below.

The workshop will also include a comprehensive discussion of the vocational opportunities in the DJ field from Byron Harden, founder and CEO of I See Music. Come spend the weekend with your fellow audio heads, and learn the skills needed for competitive employment in the music and entertainment industry.

What is Audio Academy?

Back in the days of analog, being a blind radio disc jockey, record producer or even a house engineer was not out of the question. But with the turn of the century and the turn to digital, the industry traded knobs, buttons and sliders for inaccessible graphic user interfaces on screens. For several years, the accessibility of the audio industry screeched to a halt.

Today, the landscape is greatly improved: industry leaders like Apple, AVID, Algoriddim and Native Instruments have made commitments to accessibility, and blind individuals can finally operate the tools of the trade to become studio owners, radio producers and musicians in a competitive working environment.

LightHouse Audio Academy will continue over the course of the year with talks, informal gatherings and more immersive weekends (each weekend will focus on a different topic, software or hardware application).

Please note: all who are interested in the workshop must fill out our brief application form.

LHAA 101: Intro to DJing Workshop

When: Friday, Nov. 9 at 9 a.m. – Sunday Nov. 11 at 5 p.m. (3 days, 2 nights)

Where: LightHouse for the Blind offices and residences – 1155 Market Street., San Francisco, CA 94103

Who: For all blind and low vision students

Fee: $800, (includes 2-night overnight stay, breakfast and lunch for 3 days)

Prerequisites: Ability to navigate with VoiceOver on Mac OS

Equipment: Apple workstations will be provided to students for the weekend if necessary, but bringing your own computer (Mac OS or iPad only) and Deejay Pro-compatible DJ controller is recommended.

Apply: To apply for a spot in the first workshop you must fill out our brief Audio Academy application form, located here.

If you’re still unsure, join us on October 15 at 7 p.m. to get a sneak peak of what it’s like to blind DJ at our free preview event.

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Behind the Map: Why a GPS pioneer still uses paper

In January, LightHouse started offering TMAP — on-demand tactile street maps — for order at our Adaptations Store (1-888-400-8933). We have been hearing some amazing stories about how our maps are being used, so we wanted to share them with our mapping community.

Mike May knows a bit about maps. He founded the company that launched the first accessible GPS, Sendero Group, and since 1999, Mike has introduced the world to a variety of talking map softwares, transforming and shaping the way blind people travel.

But despite his love for technology, if you step into Mike’s home or office, you’ll find the tables adorned with what may seem to be a vestige of the past: paper maps.

“The GPS is great in terms of volume, and numbers of points of interest and streets and all of that, but if you want to have a picturea tactile, geographic way of understanding streetsthen there’s nothing better than a tactile representation,” Mike says.

Mike’s a firm believer that hard-copy maps still meet a crucial need for non-visual learners that is currently not being met elsewhere.

The current iteration of TMAP differs from when he first encountered the beta version years ago in form and in scope, but he said that its application serves a critical, universal need: to orient by communicating a physical, material sense of space.

“The value of tactile maps is something that’s been around forever,” he says. “The ability to deliver those maps to people nationwide in a cost-effective manner is really the key.”

Mike has been blind since age 3, and has been involved with the LightHouse since age 7, when he went to camp at Enchanted Hills. In the 1980s, he was on the LightHouse board, and today lives in Wichita, Kansas where he serves as executive director of the Workforce Innovation Center at Envision.

When Mike moved to Wichita from the Bay Area earlier this year, he turned to the LightHouse’s made-to-order TMAPs.

“I needed to learn at least two things: one is my work location, and my home location,” he says. “I called up and I ordered maps for both spots, got a nice clean package, and now I have those available at my house. And I have the work ones available not only for me…we have lots of blind people, just like the LightHouse, that can take advantage of it here, so those maps sit in our reception area for anybody to browse.”

Mike said that he thinks the future of TMAP could include tech integration with the current physical form. As it exists now, he said that TMAP is both a unique and critical tool. “I think it’s a very undiscovered capability, and I applaud the LightHouse for making it available,” he says.

Get your TMAP today

To order a map, call our product specialists at 1-888-400-8933 and specify the street address of the map you’re interested in receiving. Within two business days we’ll ship you your map, or make it available for pick up at the Adaptations Store (1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, CA).

What’s in the package?

  • You will receive 3 map versions printed at simple, moderate and dense map scale ratios
  • A tactile map key
  • An introductory page
  • All materials are printed on 11” X 11.5” sheets of embossed paper and include ink / large print labels in addition to braille

Learn more about the MAD Lab where these maps are produced.

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